MANNEKEN-PIS IS ONE OF THE FAMOUS LANDMARKS IN BRUSSELS:Visitors may find it bemusing that a bronze statue of a little boy peeing into a fountain basin should be a national treasure for any capital city. Yet the Manneken-Pis in the centre of Brussels is one of the famous statues in the Belgian capital and it was the first attraction that we were brought to see during our Brussels visit.
Measuring only 61 cm tall, the rather small Manneken-Pis stands on the corner of Rue de l’Etuve and Rue du Chêne, a couple of blocks south-west of the Grand Place. It was created in 1619 by Hieronimus Duquesnoy whose son was an accomplished sculptor in Rome. The Manneken-Pis statue has been stolen so many times that the restored original is now kept at the Maison du Roi (Broodhuis) on the Grand Place. What we see here is a replica that was made in 1965.
Legends of the Manneken-Pis
So, back to the question of why the Manneken-Pis became a national treasure? The truth is that nobody really knows and so we are left with legends to explain its existence. There are a few battle legends about how a little boy’s pee saved the resident army from attacking forces and one of the more popular ones involved a little boy, said to be the Duke Godfrey III of Leuven. In a battle with the Berthouts, the infant lord’s troops put the young boy in a basket and hung it in a tree to encourage the troops. The boy then urinated on the enemy troops and they eventually lost the battle. Highly implausible, but that has never stopped a good story from being told.
Whatever the legend behind the Manneken-Pis, the people of Brussels have taken to this little statue in a huge way and several times each week, it is dressed according to a published schedule of clothing which is hung on the railings around the fountain. There was quite a crowd at the fountain when we visited so I missed seeing this schedule.
During our visit, the Manneken-Pis was dressed in the colours of Belgium. The changing of the costume involves a colourful ceremony which is often accompanied by brass band music. The people who dress the statue and look after the costumes are the Friends of Manneken-Pis and his wardrobe of over 900 different outfits can be seen at a permanent exhibition in the City Museum on the Grand Place.
Pissing with Beer
The Manneken-Pis is a popular tourist attraction, and you’ll see many visitors rushing to pose in front of the statue. If you’re lucky, you may find the statue urinating, what else but beer. Occasionally, the statue is hooked to a keg of beer and the beer that flows from the statue is handed out to passersby. Belgium is a beer-obsessed country, so this little gimmick is not surprising.
The Manneken-Pis has become so popular that there are now replicas of this statue in other Belgian cities as well as in other overseas cities such as Tokyo and Rio de Janeiro. All around town, in the many chocolate shops, you can buy chocolate Manneken-Pis.